HORSE’S MOUTH: A Geisha With Olive-Green Eyes





It’s probably safe to assume that banks have more guidelines and rules than most other busi­nesses. However, the relationship between banks and its patrons is a lot different than, say, between a customer at Ralph’s Supermarket than at banks.

Most people use different guide­lines in selecting where they are going to bank vs. where they are going to buy a loaf of bread.

I have been a customer at my bank for nearly 50 years. Because of the length of my patronage at the bank, I’ve gotten to know a few of the executives and even the branch president who greets me by my first name if I bump into him at the bank or on the street.

And, because of my long rela­tionship, as a courtesy to the bank, I won’t mention its name in writing this piece which certainly won’t paint a nice picture of the bank.

The other day, I went to the bank to cash a check for an individual who doesn’t have an account at the bank, but I felt because of my long relationship with the bank, there would be no problem.

I was wrong. The teller, a young lady, who was probably not even born when I first became a cus­tomer at the bank, rejected my attempt to cash the check.

For one thing, I was told in addition to a driver’s license, I needed another form of ID. At first I thought to myself, “Who carries more than a driver’s license as a form of ID?”

When I protested that I was a long-time customer at the bank with three accounts there, it didn’t impress her. And the transaction was never completed.

As I was leaving, told her I am considering closing my accounts and look for another bank. That didn’t impress her either.

So, I guess I’ll drive around the neighborhood to find another bank where I might get a title more respect. Some of you might say, “Why didn’t you tell the teller you were a newspaper columnist? It might have gained you a little more attention.” I don’t think so.

Maybe if I said I owned a Las Vegas casino, it might have done the trick, but saying that I’m a worn-out newspaper columnist probably would not have made any difference.


Over the years I guess I can say I’ve done a few things, but I never had the experience of serving as a chauffeur for a former Mayor of a major U.S. city.

That changed this past weekend when Eunice Sato, former Mayor of Long Beach asked if I could give her a ride to a birthday party to which we were both invited.

One reason was that the party was being held in Glendale and Eunice lives in Long Beach and she didn’t want to bump all the traffic going that distance.

So, in addition to having a good time at the party, I was able to en­joy her company for over an hour in my car.

Yes, the traffic on the 405 and 110 freeways was pretty bad so we did have a lot of time to talk just about everything including her days as a Mayor.

I hope my driving didn’t age her too much.

Eunice is a Republican so she might enjoy this little laugher sent to me by another Republican who reads my blabbering. It goes like this:

Barack Obama, at a recent el­ementary school assembly in East Texas, asked the audience for total quiet.

Then, in the silence, he started to slowly clap his hands once every few seconds, holding the audience in total silence.

Then, he said into the micro­phone, “Children, every time I clap my hands together, a child in America dies from gun vio­lence.”

Then, little Richard, with a proud East Texas drawl, pierced the quiet and said, “Well, dummy, stop clapping.”


I guess if foreigners can become grand champions (yokozunas) in sumo, it’s not too difficult to accept a foreigner becoming a geisha.

A story written by Abigail Ha­worth of Hearst Communications, tells of a woman named Fiona Graham becoming the first non-Japanese geisha.

Graham is not just a foreign woman to gain geisha status, she also holds a Ph.D. from Oxford University.

She began her “career” by learn­ing how to pour tea over a year.

Now, dressed in a pink silk kimono, she attracts admiring glances from the Japanese as she walks through the tourists streets of Tokyo.

According to Haworth’s story, the Japanese locals in the old Asakusa District know a real geisha when they see one, even if she is a tall Westerner with olive-green eyes.

Graham’s geisha name is Sayu­ki. And she was quoted as saying, “Being a geisha takes a lifetime to perfect.”

She also added, “Geishas are full-time working artists, not sex objects,” apparently eager to dispel the popular myth that geishas are “prostitutes” or “subservient glori­fied waitresses.”

Kind of interesting, I thought.


A short break to recognize a couple of Sansei prep basket­ballers.

The Sato sisters of El Segundo High School scored 42 of their team’s 59 points but it wasn’t enough as they lost to Gahr High 66 to 59 in the third place game of the Valley Christian Tournament Saturday.

Ironically, the winning edge in points for Gahr was scored by another Sansei, Kanemaru, who tallied 9 points.

Kind of interesting to me.


Don’t know if I mentioned it but I was chatting with the mailman who delivers on our street and he told me that there was a huge drop in the number of Christmas cards on his route this year.

Of course, he laughed because he said he doesn’t have to lug around a heavy mail bag as he makes his rounds.

So, I guess I’m not the only who thought about the 44-cent postage rate this year.

One thing I did notice from my list of cards received is that those I don’t hear from except for the cards with a few words written inside, always seem to remember me during the holiday season.

For that I am thankful. Hearing from people whom I don’t keep in touch with for an entire year is nice.


With the coming of the New Year, I wondered how many Japa­nese American families still con­tinue the annual tradition of mak­ing mochi, the old fashion way. That is steaming, pounding, roll­ing and packing disks of mochi.

Sharon Noguchi, a writer for the San Jose Mercury News, wrote about three families in Morgan Hill (in Northern California) who still keep the tradition started by their Issei parents years ago.

Most families these days let ma­chines handle the aged-old practice of making mochi.

Kazuto Kawaguchi, one of the members of the three families, gave up pounding the mochi, but still skillfully flips the mochi. He is 93 years old and said he thought about switching to making mochi by machines, but he feels tradition is the important factor in making mochi the “old fashion way.”

Four generations of the families of the Kawaguchi’s, 40 of them from as far as Los Angeles and Idaho, gathered this week to pound the sweet rice into little cakes. He wants the new generation kids to get together for mochi making. That is the most important thing for him.

Me? I get my mochi from Tak Hamano of Umeya, who makes it by machine.

Being a non-tradtionalist, I guess I can’t tell the difference between the two methods of mak­ing mochi.


Well, since the year 2009 is quickly coming to an end, here’s a few thoughts to ponder for what is left of the year. It was e-mailed to me by a reader.

It was titled, “10 Thoughts to Ponder for What is Left of 2009.” Here a few from on the list:

• Good health is merely the slowest possible rate at which one can die.

• Health nuts are going to feel stupid some day, lying in the hos­pital, dying of nothing.

• All of us could take a lesson from the weather. It pays no atten­tion to criticism.

• Why does a slight tax increase cost you $200 and a substantial tax cut saves you $30?

• Life is like a jar of jalapeño peppers. What you do today might burn your butt tomorrow.

Oh well, it helped fill some space in today’s column.

Gee, am I that desperate for writing material?


The Rafu ran a photo in Satur­day’s edition of Hozumi Hasegawa, the Japanese holder of the World Boxing Council’s bantamweight title, defending his title against Alvaro Perez of Nicaragua.

Hasegawa knocked out the chal­lenger for his 10th successful title defense putting him only one vic­tor away from becoming Japan’s top title defender.

After his win, Hasegawa told the media he wants to defend his title next in a fight in the U.S., if it can be arranged.

Even though there are three Japanese world champions, none of them have fought in the U.S.

There was a time when seeing a Japanese fighter in a U.S. fight was quite common.

Heck, when I was active in pro boxing, I helped promote five Japanese fighters in title matches in the U.S.

Maybe I should come out of retirement. No way.

I came out of retirement to continue writing my column and look where I am today, some 20 years later.

Of course, promoting boxing matches is a little easier than filling two pages a week in the Rafu.

At any rate, I would like to see Hasegawa in a U.S. ring. Maybe in Vegas.

At least, it will give me an ex­cuse to go Vegas other than to toss money in the slot machines.


In response to a reader who saw my column in Saturday’s edition of the Rafu with the headline, “Min­eta Speaks Up For American,” he wrote: “I thought you weren’t a fan of the former Congressman.”

I’m not.

And I don’t write the heading which goes atop of my column. That’s up to Editor Gwen.

Actually, my comments on Mineta had nothing to do with whether I’m a Norm fan.

It was about Norm’s comments on Japan Air Lines proposed merger with Delta Air Lines.

Norm is an adviser to American Air Lines which is also trying to merge with JAL and he gave his views on Delta’s proposal.

Hope that clears the air a bit.

I know some of you may won­der why I’m not a Mineta fan. The story goes way back and after these years, not worth rehashing.

But hey, I’m not the only one. Many of my friends and relatives who reside in the San Jose area feel the same way as I do.


I guess the big wheels at the three Boyd Properties in Down­town Vegas (The Cal, Fremont and Main Street) do read the Rafu.

When I wrote about the three execs dancing the hula at a din­ner party, I said I would write a critique about their hula skills be­cause they won’t see it anyway.

I was wrong. Got a note from Vegas in which the message read, “The three execs got a kick out of your review of their hula danc­ing.”

Gee, the next time I go to The Cal, I’d better try to avoid bump­ing into any of the execs I men­tioned. They might have gotten a kick out of my story, but they may also want to kick me out of their casino.


A little add on Japan’s bid to build a bullet train system in the U.S.

A recent story reported that the Japanese are being considered for building the proposed bullet train which will connect New York City with Boston.

The project isn’t set for a con­struction for another three years but the cities involved are in favor of hiring a Japanese firm to con­struct the railway.

Isn’t that something?


Back on July 2, 1999, I climbed Mt. Fuji along with six other Nisei “seniors,” which means I was 10 years younger than I am today but still kind of old to try a stunt like that today.

I was even more convinced of this when I read the other day that two Japanese hikers ages in their mid-30s died during their climb last week.

Of course, it was a lot colder for these two victims, but it wasn’t exactly warm even in July.

So climbing Fuji-san will be an accomplishment I can look back upon and feel kind of good about.

I should point out that one of those in my climbing group was in his mid-80’s. He didn’t try to go all the way to the top having stopped at “station eight.” But it was still a great achievement for someone his age.


When Wally Yonamine became the first gaijin to be named to Japa­nese professional baseball “Hall of Fame,” I attended his induction ceremony dinner.

Now the Japanese media is tout­ing Ichiro Suzuki to be the first Japanese to be inducted into the Major League’s “Hall of Fame.” Most experts say that Ichiro is a heavy favorite to gain the honor.

So I guess it can be said that the Seattle Mariner star will be the first gaijin to gain a spot in the Major League “Hall.”

Of the two, I would have to say that Wally’s induction was a lot tougher because he not only had to excel on the field of play but as a gaijin playing in Japan, he faced a lot more obstacles than Ichiro.


When Gardena Serra High School’s football team won the Division Two state championship this past Saturday at Home Deport Center, it put the city on the map for many I mean, I’m sure a lot of people in Northern California asked, “Gardena Serra, where’s that?”

Well, Gardena has changed over the years so a high school from the city winning the State Champion­ship is a sign of the times.

One of the major changes is the amount of crime which is being committed.

This past Sunday, I went to Sakae Sushi to order our dinner and couldn’t get close to the shop located at Redondo Beach and Denker Street.

The reason? Redondo Beach was closed down because of crimi­nal activity at a small shopping mall just up the street.

They even closed off the entry­way to Pacific Square, the “Japa­nese Shopping Mall.”

And about four days before that the police closed off Marine Av­enue and Normandie for

a similar reason.

When I moved to Gardena over 50 years ago, it was unimaginable for activities like this taking place. Now it seems like a daily hap­pening.

And, I’m too old to move away.

So, maybe I should just be glad that Gardena Serra is the state high school football champions.


George Yoshinaga writes from Gardena and may be reached via e-mail at [email protected] Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.


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